Dilara Erbay


After graduating from the French Highschool Notre Dame de Sion in 1993, I attended the Public Management Department of the Faculty of Economical and Management Sciences of the Galatasaray University. During my student years, whenever I found time (I found a lot!?) I traveled in Turkey, the Middle East, Asia and Europe, and was introduced to different culinary cultures, different flavours. I ended the schooling and “political sciences” phase of my life with a thesis on “The Role of Non-Government Organizations in Turkish Political Life, and the Bergama Event”.

In 1999, I ‘settled’ in South America, my childhood dream. First I started managing a restaurant on the Caribbean shores of Colombia, where I was also chef. The restaurant was very popular; people were coming from neighbouring villages, and even from the city of Santa Marta to eat my stuffed tomatoes and courgettes. Hundreds of Colombians ate ‘patlıcan beğendi (aubergine puree)’ for the first time in their lives. In the meantime, the taste I got the first time I ate rice cooked with Coca Cola and coconut milk was as full of surprises as the first taste of beğendi for the Colombians. Of course, I was also enjoying myself immensely. At the same time, I took diving training in these tropical waters, and became a rescue diver. Later, I improved my Spanish by working as an underwater guide at the Galapagos Islands. Thus, I was able to obtain the chance of learning tropical cuisine, which was my real field of interest.

I did my apprenticeship at the Tribecca Grill Restaurant in New York in 2001. I learned professional kitchen organization, basic kitchen equipment and magnificient recipees at Robert de Niro’s restaurant. I traveled often in Anatolia, as well as the rest of the world, collecting materials and studying local cuisines.

My adventure as a food stylist started in 2003 and continued with the Art Decor and Elele Magazines. Currently I work as a food stylist for advertising photos.

In 2003, I met South African chef Mike Norman, and my first professional restaurant experience started when he appointed me chef to Çubuklu Sunset.

In 2004, I opened Dilara Abracadabra, Turkey’s first organic restaurant, where I applied my own concept of “experimental and traditional cuisine”. There, I found the chance of serving my guests ‘what they hadn’t tasted, and what they hadn’t been able to taste’. At the same time, I also gave design catering services at activities such as Design Fairs and the Istanbul Biennale, as well as art galleries, museums, business offices and homes.

The same year, I gave classes in Gastronomy at Bilgi University and Swiss Training Center.

I became chef and partner of the Cezayir (Algiers) Restaurant, and developed my culinary concept.

My cousin that is traditional&experimental started tp develop seven years ago now continues in Arnavutköy in a four florey historical yali, again with the name of Abracadabra. Abracadabra is a more than a restaurant, rather it’s a playground for me that I study culinary cultures, the science of gastronomy, different flavors, and developing my own recipes. On the other hand, I share my knowledge with tasteful food enthusiasts through catering and concultancy services in Abracadabra.

© dilara Abracadabra 2007